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New law prevents sex offenders from voting at schools
BY LEE FILAS | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/29/2007 12:27 PM

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People convicted of sex crimes against children are now prohibited from entering and voting at schools.

The legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich means sex offenders will not be allowed to come within 100 feet of a school, even when voting.

Sex offenders can vote absentee or at designated polling places that are not a school building.

State Rep JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican, who sponsored the bill, said the aim is to protect children.

"We don't want to take away a persons right to vote, but we want to make sure school is safe for children," Osmond said. "This law will make that happen."

Officials know of no cases in Illinois in which a sex offender was charged with abuse while at a school voting.

Under the new legislation, county clerks must designate at least one permanent or temporary early voting location a sex offender may enter.

Sex offenders, who must register their home addresses with police, have always been required to stay away from schools. However, election law makes no such allowances. If the offender is a registered voter whose polling place is a school, it was legal to enter and vote.

Initially, Osmond wanted to send students home on Election Day. She said that idea was rejected because school superintendents didn't want to use a teachers institute day for election days.

"We heard a lot of pro's and con's about the issue and decided this was the best way to handle it," she said. "Keeping sex offenders out of schools is in everyone's best interest and the right thing to do to keep kids safe."

The Daily Herald, with help from several suburban election officials, examined sex offender data against voter registration records. It found only 28 of the more than 1,800 suburban registered sex offenders voted at a school during last fall's statewide elections.

Prior to the legislation being signed into law, some lawmakers questioned why Osmond was going after sex offenders and not other criminals.

"What if someone had murdered a child ... or burned down a school? They'd be allowed to come in and vote?" said state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat.